A Misty-Eyed Look at Elementary School Graduation

Photo by David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

Sorry about the wet newspaper. I’ve been crying big, sloppy, sentimental mommy tears since Koss started sixth grade last fall, when I was shocked to find my still- squirrelly-not-yet-pimply-but-still-closes-his-eyes-when-people-kiss-in-movies little boy in a class full of young women. Never have I seen such blatant evidence of girls maturing faster than boys as I did in that sixth grade classroom.

Never, that is, until sixth grade graduation, when the girls in their high, high heels, stylish dresses, curled hair and lip gloss towered above their slightly dressed up little brothers. After months of anxiety and excitement, elementary school finally ended, and I can’t seem to turn off the waterworks.

Then again, we have had a lot of wind this year, and I do have allergies. I couldn’t possibly be crying this much otherwise.

It’s not that the ending of elementary school hasn’t been endless. We’ve had 17 end- of-the-year parties, 310 play performances, 172 hours of P.E. and a summer birthday party in the classroom.

That was just last week.

Plus I know that Koss is going on to bigger and brighter things, even if that safe little elementary school bubble has burst. I’m not sure that either of us is quite ready to face the world of puberty, pimples and permanent records-otherwise known as junior high.

As I try to compose a thank you letter to my son’s teacher, I realize I’ve got a lot of teachers to thank for getting him to this milestone moment. Dear Ms. Geritz, Mrs. Lauderdale, Mr. Barker, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Carter, Mr. Barker (the sequel), and Mrs. Brown (part deux): you are all amazing and Koss is so very lucky to have had you on his team. We are so going to miss seeing you all the time, but we will never forget you.

Like every milestone Koss encounters, this one feels like a mixed blessing, like I’m giving another little bit of him away to the universe. And that universe will soon become infinitely larger, with new friends whose parents I may not know and multiple teachers I’m not on a first name basis with. I’m terrified.

As much as I want him to be independent-after all, helping him become an independent person is the job I signed up for when I became his mom, and if he weren’t ready to move on from sixth grade I would really be in trouble-I also dread his independence almost as much as the nightmare teenage rebellion stories I hear from my friends.

I know I’ll get over it when the alarm clock goes off in September (October at the latest), but for right now even the most celebratory rites of passage-including Koss being able to finally walk himself to and from school-make me feel a little sad. Call me crazy, but for all of my whining about driving him to and from school, we’ve also had some of our best talks during those drives. Now we’ll have to figure out another place and time to have them.

I’ll never forget the dejected look on Koss’s face at the end of kindergarten when I had to tell him that he would have a different teacher for first grade, and there would be some different students too. It’s not that different from his face now, when he talks about the handful of classmates that are moving on to private junior high schools, who signed “see you in high school” in his yearbook.

“I wish we could all just stay together,” groans Koss. “It’ll be so weird without them. We’re like a big family.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Whether it was their first child to graduate from elementary school or their last, at graduation all of the parents marveled that their babies had finally reached this stage, and I’d swear, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

It must be all of our allergies. We couldn’t possibly be crying this much otherwise.

When Leslie’s not out buying more Kleenex, she can be reached by email at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on June 10, 2011.

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